At just 27 years old, Adrian Peterson’s presence on an all-time greats list may appear strange, but is also a testament to his production over the first five years of his career.
Truth be told, the Vikings do not have a history of highly effective running backs. In terms of yardage, Peterson is now sandwiched between Robert Smith (1998-2000) and Chuck Foreman (1973-1979), and will likely be the top Minnesota rusher after his first full game this upcoming season.
In his first five seasons with the Vikings, Peterson has been a model of consistency, only rushing for under 1,300 yards in two of his five seasons, both of which he played less than a full season. It is also worth noting that he only fell two yards short of that mark in 2010, playing 15 games of the regular season schedule.
His most prolific season came in 2008, when he racked up 1,760 yards on the ground, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Significantly, Peterson was lining up behind Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, two unproven quarterbacks, making this performance all the more impressive.
In 2009, his rushing yardage dipped due to the shift in strategy to a more pass-oriented offense upon the arrival of Brett Favre. In this season, Peterson showed his versatility, jumping from 125 receiving yards the year before to 436 yards in 2009.
The interesting thing about AP is that he shares a lot of attributes with the players currently above him on this list. While he certainly has remarkable speed and elusiveness, he also never shies away from contact, embracing the opportunity to break tackles and stiff-arm defenders for a few extra yards.
With his current injury concerns, one has to wonder if he will be able to maintain this style of play, or if it will end up leaving him on the sideline for a significant amount of time. However, with the raw talent and drive that Peterson has, there is no reason to doubt that he could potentially work his way up this prestigious list. In the current league, which is becoming more and more pass-oriented, Peterson reminds us of what it can mean to have an exciting and explosive runner on the roster.